PROTECT THE DIAMONDS
451 Entertainment's newest book, Stained, is a sci fi wonder in the same vein as Masamune Shirow's classic comic Ghost in the Shell. Stained is brought to us by newcomer artist Yusuf Idris taking care of illustrating it, and David Baron doing double-duty with this being his first foray into writing, while keeping with his memorable coloring talents on the book.
Stained is the story of Emma London, a bounty hunter with an attitude and lots of skill. The book itself is hits just the right cyberpunk dystopian future tone, heavy police noir elements, and it's really quite reminiscent of Blade Runner. It's loaded with action, violence, and cool technology all wrapped in a grim criminal underworld.
What works well for the book is the simplicity it begins with. The writing is snappy and quick. All the characters sound real and the story flows quickly. Nothing sounds forced, or absurd. We get to see the Emma London being a regular person (albeit a bionically enhanced one). She has to worry about day to day things like the high cost of living- she worries about paying the bills, making rent, and exorbitant taxes. She has emotions and reactions to the people around her. It feels natural and grounded in a real world. Even the little actions, like Emma's evening where she makes dinner only to throw it out because she doesn't need it, but still longs for that ritual as it gives her a bit of comfort. Conversely, she knows what her job is, and she will get it done- hurt the people, save the diamonds.
My only real complaint about the book is what isn't explained. We know something happened in Emma's past, but absolutely no clue as to what it was. Whatever caused her to get her cybernetic parts, and we know that the term "stained"is a slur, but why that is is not even hinted at. We neither know what caused Emma's situation, nor why "stained" is such a terrible slur to cause her to react so aggressively to being referred to as that.
In addition, usually readers can kind of tell where a plot is pointing to for the future, but Stained doesn't give us any hints. There aren't any leads on what will come next, and though this issue stands well enough on it's own, which does have some good merit, it feels kind of like a stand alone issue.
I believe 451 did well in pinching Baron from Valiant for his previously untapped writing talents. We know he could more than pull his weight with coloring with his outstanding work on big titles like Divinity, Doctor Mirage, and Bloodshot Reborn. So this is one of those cases where utilizing a creative person's other abilities is a good turn.
As for Idris' illustrations, I'll cut him some slack. He is a relative rookie, and there's some small things that change appearance, like the looks of a couple faces, but they are small annoyances. His style fits the book, and as such, it works really well- making him someone to watch. He actually reminds me a lot of early Bryan Hitch (Marvel's The Ultimates) before his style become ultra cinematic, or even a bit like Travis Charest before he hit his stride with Wildcats. What I'm trying to say is, Yusef Idris is definitely an artist to keep your eyes on.
I've said it numerous times before, and I'll say it yet again, 451 has yet to have a bad series. Stained is no different, it's off to a great start, and I eagerly await what's to come for our rebellious bounty hunter friend and finding out what makes someone "stained." In a market over-saturated with science fiction bounty hunter stories this book stands out due to the fact the main protagonist is so damned well written. Emma feels like a real person, and because of that I want to keep reading just to see what she'll end up doing in the next issue, and what new and dangerous cases she'll come across. Stained is an easy book to recommend, so go check it out.
Stained #1 will be available this Wednesday, May 3rd.
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*Review copy provided, thank you!